As a long time student of feminism and the impacts on American society, this title was intriguing. Have women dominated so clearly that men are now the underdogs? Author Hanna Rosin indicates, as of 2012, the answer is yes.
Chapter 1: Hearts of Steel
The book opens with interviews of female hotties at several prestigious universities. According to these hearts of steel, women have adapted to the hook-up culture, adapting to the reality and learning to dominate the game. Eventually however, they wear thin, as Helena Andrews, author of Bitch is the New Black comments, “At twenty-seven and counting, we’re not really old…but tell it to our hearts that are so tired of being broken that they’d rather stay that way than be fixed for a better smashing later.”
“With sex, as with most areas of life, women tend to preserve a core of their old selves–romantic, tender, vulnerable–even while taking on new sexual personas….the challenge was how to hang on to their hearts of steel for long enough that they seem invulnerable, but not for so long that they missed their chance at happiness.
Young women today are more successful, competent, competitive and affluent than ever before. But as they rise in power and prestige, the men around them simply haven’t kept up. As one pyschologist murmurs, “The three pillars of their lives are “drinking, sex, and video games” their brains become “digitally rewired” and no longer suitable for stable romantic relationships, especially with equal status female mates.”
While you have a college hook-up culture dominating society, that’s not how the story ends. “Ultimately the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women” There is a human hard-wiring for intimacy that cannot be suffocated by cultural norms.
Chapter 2: SeeSaw Marriage
Seesaw marriages are the pattern, but women bear twice as much.
Instead of marrying a loser male, women of the middle class are choosing to stay single in greater numbers. Meanwhile, women of the elite classes marry a mate and strike a compromise where each partner pursues their career for a “period of time”. Hence the seesaw- 5 years for you, 5 for me. “Anyone can play the bread-winner for any period” but is the work distributed evenly?
After interviewing one of the thriving couples now living this arrangement she finds, “Sarah realizes one truth about their situation: Steven stays home during the day, but in fact she is in charge of both realms. By deciding to work full-time she has not actually ceded the domestic space, but only doubled her load…”
“Does more money mean more power in the relationship? Do more hours working mean fewer hours taking care of children?”
For women, the answer is no. Statistically, women compared to the 50s are working considerably more hours than they once did without easing off on childcare. They gain new ground without letting go of any of the old, the stress is mounting.
Meanwhile, for husbands of wives with high-power jobs, you have to negotiate a new kind of maleness as a stay-at-home dad. Some rebel, some submit. Rosin quotes one gentleman ” I’m progressive and enlightened…I want that guy to exist. I just don’t want to be that guy.” Women take on the new roles with gusto, while men only reluctantly.
3. The New American Matriarchy
Middle class America stops getting married, because women don’t want to be shackled to a couch potato.
It’s the end of the American manufacturing age. While masked for a time with the housing bubble, the empty industrial plants tell a different tale. What is the result?
“The broad middle swath of America has become unrecognizable, with a rapid decline in marriage, and a rapid increase in divorce and single motherhood. The men destined to be breadwinners have lost their way, causing a sudden upending of the rules for sex, marriage, politics, religion and the future aspirations of young people.”
The manufacturing economy has lost 6 million “man” jobs, while the increase of jobs in the medical and education fields are being dominated by women. The social implications are enormous. Larry Summers, Obama’s chief economic adviser, zeroed in on the same phenomenon,
“I worry…about where the jobs are going to come from those with fewer skills. One in 5 men between 25 and 40 are not working…that has potentially vast social consequences.”
“For the rising generation, these upended gender dynamics have made marriage seem a lot less appealing.” In middle class, mid-west America, fairy tale romance is all but dead.
The New York Times reported in a 2012 front page story, that “more than half of births to American women under thirty occurred outside of marriage.”
As sociologist Brad Wilcox illuminates in his book “When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America” ”Marriage, is in danger of becoming a luxury good attainable only to those with the material and cultural means to grab hold of it.” As Kefalas puts it, “Stable marriage has become a class privilege in America, just like good school and access to health care and healthy foods.”
As Rosin concludes, “marriage has become yet another class privilege in America…the “private playground of those already blessed with abundance”
4. How Women Remade the Economy
Women began to dominate the medical and Education fields.
- In 2009 the balance of the workforce tipped toward women.
- In 2011 women hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs up from 26.1 percent in 1980.
- They make up 61% of all accountants and half of all banking and insurance jobs
- 1/3 of America’s physicians are women
- 45% of law firm associates and are rising fast
This is not just in the US, but a global increase. Traditionally feminine attributes, like empathy, patience, and communal problem solving, began to replace top-down autocratic models. These growing demands for social skills are things women are already naturally skilled at. Women have written the blueprint for the future- are the men able to adapt?
5. Education Gap
More women in schools and earning more degrees and thus earning more professional jobs.
“Women’s dominance on college campuses is possibly the strangest and most profound change of the century.”
“More than ever, college is the gateway to economic success, a necessary precondition for moving into the upper-middle class–and increasingly even into the middle class.” Women earn almost 60 % of all bachelor’s degrees- the minimum requirement, in most cases, for an affluent life.
Remarkably, this is happening all over the world.
How did this come to pass? Christina Sommers caused a storm in 2000 with her Atlantic story “The War Against boys” which blamed a misguided feminism that treated normal boys as incipient harassers.” Think about it, the ideal student is most definitely a docile, diligent, “raise your hands in class” type of girl. Do we need to re-think how we educate our boys? It’s an education system that plays to girls strengths. Naturally video games have become a death trap for many young men, but even so are we leaving behind our men of the future by how we cater class structure and activities?
They have the sense that school was set up in a way designed to trip them up. “Don’t stand this way. Do stand that way…”
We can’t change the way the world is heading but perhaps we “can put a boy in an environment that doesn’t make him feel like a failure, and give him enough tools at least to keep up.” (my solution? homeschool
6.The New Wave
As women are encouraged to be more aggressive, violence among women spikes.
Arrests for juvenile girls rose from 41 % between 1992 and 2003 and continues to rise. The increase of arrest rates are showing up in all ages of women.
“Violence for the girls, one author argues, is a source of pleasure, self-esteem and cultural capital.” The girls in her study “enjoy physically dominating others and take pleasure in inflicting pain and emerging victorious.” A recent British study showed that women were three times more likely to be arrested for domestic violence and far more likely to use a weapon. Studies have suggested that if the social acceptance for female aggression expanded, women would move in to fill the space. You see new cultural motifs such as Katniss Evergreen and The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, -damaged, but highly effective killers.
How does this play into society as a whole? The greatest barrier to women reaching for the MOST powerful jobs these days is a set of unspoken assumptions: that women are not competitive, dominant, or hungry enough to make it. But as rising aggression indicates, they are breaking through even this last barrier with a surprising force.
7. The Top
As women climb the power ladder, they must balance femininity with drive and marketplace with home-life. The demands leave some disillusioned and retired at 40.
People become resentful when their work makes them miss the things that are really important to them. In this case, the new work-place must cater to these desires and create an atmosphere where new moms can have the flexibility to be both Professional and Parent. Many businesses have not yet taken the curve and women are left strung out and exhausted wondering if it’s worth it.
How do they spend time with their children without ruining their careers? Companies like Google and Facebook are leading the way into a new flexibility and women-friendly environments. This is the wave of the future, stay-at-home dads and in-business babysitting.
Now able to protect their family time and maintain their careers, female CEOs are still surprisingly few. Why? “Women are more reluctant to negotiate for themselves. As a result, they tended to be blind to their opportunities. They seemed to assume that if they worked hard, the proper rewards would come their way.” Yet they are caught in a trap, if they deny the typical female stereotype and bluntly ask for raise, people cringe. ”The Twitch”, the reflex reaction when women un-sheath their sword of aggression, is an instant disadvantage and often spells failure to the deserved promotion.
“How could women be nice enough not to trigger The Twitch, but not so insipid that she would never get a promotion?
The answer? Play by the “nice rules”, polite but firm, self-starter and team-player, putting your needs in context of the companies best interest, still behaving like a lady. Essentially, play by cultural rules so you can get to the top and change them.
Secondarily, Rosin points out
“Women carry psychological baggage with them into the workplace: a lingering ambivalence about their ambition, a queasiness about self-promotion, a duty to family that they can’t or wont’t offload onto their husbands, a catholic notion of satisfaction that encompasses much more than climbing the corporate ladder, and a general feeling of vulnerability they seem to drag with them up the ranks no matter how powerful they get…maybe children are a proxy for the general drift and disaffection that often starts to weaken women’s resolve to fight somewhere in their late twenties and takes full hold of them in their thirties and forties…Many great working women reach the point where they stop and wonder whether the mad daily rush is worth it.”
Women inherently tend to find their satisfaction and moral identity from aspects of work and life that are unrelated to the next promotion. Unlike men who find so much of their significance in their standing in a company. Are women willing to fight it?
They are becoming CEOs, but are they happy?
8. The Gold Misses
Korean women are buckling under the pressure to be powerful professionals and happy moms.
The men of Korea want a traditional, stay-at-home wife. Conversely, the women want a chance at a new life, new education and new opportunities. The rise in educated women demands a culture shift, yet the majority of the population remain locked in the past. Marriage is plummeting drastically as a result of the disparity between marriageable korean men and women.
“In a host of Asian countries, including Korea, the new woman and the same old man have looked each other over and each has deemed the other a wholly unsuitable life partner, creating a region of “lonely hearts” as The Economist called them. Life in Korea, and across the world, is not the same.
Are Women Happy ?
While reading this book, I was reminded as a Christian, how we look at the world through a certain worldview. To me, it seems significant that though women are achieving more sexual freedom and finesse, more power and prestige, more adaptability and dominance they are statistically less happy/satisfied than previous generations. As a culture are we sacrificing the little things for the all-ecompassing financial success? A pathetically simply question, does more money really make women more happy?
It is my belief, inherent in the heart of every women is a desire to nurture. It is part of God’s design, and cannot be suffocated by new gender roles or developments. Why do women spin into action as soon as they get home? The baby is changed, the dishes whipped into the dishwasher, laundry running and dinner cooking? She cares about her home, her domain, how clean and neat it is. It is second nature to her, and cannot be ignored. For the same reason, you have some men balking against the new gender roles of “stay-at-home-dad”.
Manhood gone AWOL
I was disappointed in the conclusion Rosin presented. It was something along the lines of “Well, let’s hope men will learn to adapt and be more malleable to meet the demand”. Frankly, that sounds depressingly insufficient. What is the solution Hanna? Send all the adolescents off to book-camp to get some spine?
Across the board we are seeing a collapse of manhood. Dr. Al Mohler in his article “The End of Men? A Hard Look at the Future” questions:
“How do we prepare the church to deal with such a world while maintaining Biblical models of manhood and womanhood? Christians, had better know that matters far more important than economics are at stake. These trends represent nothing less than a collapse of male responsibility, leadership, and expectations. The real issue here is not the end of men, but the disappearance of manhood.”
The one comfort that rallies in my heart is anchored to the church. As long as the faithful patriarchs teach men how to be men, raising up boys to sacrifice and lead, there will be always true leadership. Put down the video games, lay aside the remote, and lead their wives and children.
On the flip side perhaps women should find contentment where they have forsaken it? Yes, this is completely politically incorrect, flying in the face of feminist thought. Yet for all the fanfare and success, I see a lot of frazzled women. The demands of both worlds are relentless. The stress-load is not a very convincing argument for women’s liberation.
Success or happiness? Contentment at home or Power in the square? Perhaps a mix of both? If there is to be a resurrection of manhood, womanhood will then be the ones to adapt.